Cervical cancer is the most common cancer in women under the age of 35; according to The Eve Appeal, fifty five women in the UK are diagnosed with gynaecological cancer every day, and twenty one will die from it - but it's actually one of the few cancers that can be prevented. Scientific evidence has shown that if women are screened every three years, more than 90% of pre-cancer cases are picked up and can be treated with very little inconvenience. Our regular smear test can hugely increase our chance of leading a happy, healthy, problem-free life, so why are attendance levels on the decline in the UK? Why are so many women scared of a simple and quick procedure that (put simply) could possibly save their life? Shockingly, a third of women between the ages of 25 and 29 do not take up their smear test invitation, while one in five don’t actually attend their appointment after it's been booked. Statistics have shown that (apart from an increase in 2009 after the death of Jade Goody,) the uptake of cervical screening has either fallen or remained unchanged for the past decade; that's simply not good enough.

Although smear tests aren't enjoyable, they're so quick and painless that we should all be making the time to get tested and look after our health. However, it seems that we all make excuses to delay our appointments - from not having the time, blaming work commitments, not being able to get a convenient appointment or simply prioritising everything else over a smear. Furthermore, the lack of clarity about exactly what happens can cause a huge amount of anxiety if you've never experienced one before; after all, none of us take particular pleasure from letting a complete stranger near our nether-regions, so our minds run wild at the thought of how horrendous a smear could actually be. Let me set the record straight: smear tests take less than ten minutes, for the majority of people they're absolutely pain free, the nurse really has seen it all before, and no, she won't be judging you on your knickers.

If you're concerned about the results coming back 'abnormal', then it may ease your anxieties a little to know that about 94% of tests come back completely clear or any abnormalities. I was shocked to learn that 20% of women say they associate gynaecological cancers with sexual promiscuity, even though there is no link between the two at all; abnormalities that are identified as part of a smear don’t mean you’re ‘putting about a bit’, nor does it mean you’ve contracted an STI. Abnormalities just mean there's been some kind of change in your cervix that needs a little investigation. It’s about time we stopped with the stigma, the lack of clarity and incorrect ‘Chinese Whispers’ basis of our information, and started acting like adults. A total of 4.31 million women were invited for screening in England in 2014-15, with only 3.12 million women actually turning up for an appointment - not only is that a fall of 3.3% from the previous year, but that's over ONE MILLION WOMEN that are just not getting tested at all.

This week is Cervical Cancer Prevention Week, a campaign set up to raise awareness of the importance of cervical screening and to kick-start conversations about an essentially preventable disease. What better way to start my #LetsTalkAboutIt series that with something that effects us all as women? If you're concerned about booking a smear for the first time, then I've outlined some faff-free information to help clarify exactly what happens and why you really shouldn't be worried...

What tools do they use during the procedure? 
A smear test involves two things: a plastic pair of forceps and a little plastic brush. Each time a smear test is conducted the nurse will use a brand new set, fresh out of the sterile packaging. The forceps are used to open the cervix so the little brush can retrieve a sample for testing; because no cervix is ever the same, there are a variety of sizes to make the procedure as quick and easy as possible. Your nurse will start with the 'average' size (which tends to be best for the majority of people,) moving up or down if required.

What actually happens during a smear test?
The whole process takes about three minutes from beginning to end. You remove your knickers and jump up on the examination bed, either lifting your knees or sitting in a frog position to give the nurse the best view and access point. The nurse will use a small about of lubricant on the forceps and insert them into your vagina, opening them slowly to allow her to find your cervix; once she's found the right point, the little brush is used to swish around inside and take a sample of cells for testing. As soon as the brush is covered (usually about five quick swirls) the forceps are removed and you can pop back on your underwear.

Does a smear test hurt? 
No, not at all. You may experience a little discomfort from the pressure of the forceps widening inside, or even a little tickle from the brush, but there is no pain whatsoever. I can assure you (if you've never experienced one before,) that after your smear you'll wonder what all the fuss was about. The key thing is to relax as much as possible and the procedure will take seconds.

How often should I go for a smear test? 
Your first smear test should happen when you reach 25; the reason it's not before is because historically smears were picking up on abnormalities that were just a result of the body changing and continuing to develop. After your first one you should pop back in every three years for a check-up; your doctor should send you a reminder letter, but if not make sure you know when you're due another test and book an appointment regardless.

Are there any side-effects?
You may experience slight period cramps or spotting for 24hrs afterwards, which is perfectly normal. This is simply because you've been prodded at a bit inside and your lady parts can be quite sensitive. Other than that you wouldn't even know you'd had anything done; you won't be hobbling around or be in any kind of discomfort.

How long will it take to get the result? 
Within two weeks you should receive a letter through the post confirming the results. If your test comes back as normal then you don't have to do anything at all. If your test shows abnormalities, then you'll be asked to pop back for a colposcopy at the hospital; this is simply a closer look inside your cervix with a microscope and isn't anything to worry about.

What happens if the results come back with 'abnormalities'?
There are two types of abnormalities - cells that are pre-cancerous and have the potential to develop into something more serious, as well as cells that will simply return to normal without any treatment whatsoever. An abnormal result doesn't mean cancer; an abnormal result doesn't even necessarily mean you've got pre-cancerous cells; an abnormal results simply means there's something worth having anther look at.

What tips would you give me for my first time? 
1. Wear a skirt or a dress so you feel less 'exposed' and nervous. If you have to wack off your trousers and literally lie on a table half-naked, then you're going to feel uncomfortable; if you wear a dress or a skirt you won't be able to see anything and the whole process will feel a lot more discrete.
2. Relax, don't panic and if you want to ask questions then ask: the nurses are used to seeing young women for their first appointment so they're happy to chat or take the time to explain and make you feel comfortable. The more tense you are the longer it will take to get the plastic forceps in, which is where it can become a little uncomfortable.
3. If you're nervous about getting your lady bits out in front of a stranger, take the time to have a little trim and pamper before your appointment. The nurses see thousands of vaginas every single year so they don't even pay attention, but it will make you feel more comfortable and confident.

This weekend, rather than talking about your latest Netflix obsession, ask your girlfriends when their last smear test was. If you can't remember the last time you had yours, it's probably time to book an appointment. If you've been putting it off, make a commitment today to ring up your doctor and put that bad boy into your diary in capital letters. If you've got a vagina, look after it. It's the only one you've got.

Features PR samples unless otherwise stated. To read my full disclaimer, click here.  


  1. Such a great post! Ladies, go and get your smear tests done.

    I have a couple of tricks too, to help make it easier. Make your hands into fists and pop them under your bum cheeks - this elevates you slightly and helps the cervix into view easily. Also acts as a distraction tool for you.

    Also, try wiggling your toes (but not your legs), another good distraction, and also acts as a relaxer to the body - something about neuro signals to the brain. I've had many smear tests and colposcopies, and I promise these tips really help.

    Now go and book your test! :) x

  2. It's so refreshing to see this talked about publicly. As an under 25 this post has been really informative, the one million women stat is so scary and it puts into perspective how it is not talked about enough!

    luce | http://luceellen.blogspot.co.uk

  3. Great post! I had my second one a couple of weeks ago after putting it off for a year - it really is over in seconds. Why did I put it off?! Health first, ladies.

  4. Thanks for sharing such a thoughtful post.
    Nazlıgül | on my own way

  5. I turn 25 next year and will definitely be having one! I will be sure to wear a dress or a skirt :D
    Pam xo/ Pam Scalfi♥

  6. I'm not 25 yet but this helps a lot, I had no idea about the way it was done I just heard something last year! I'm always open to know more about prevention, if we can prevent there's no excuse to not go! It may be too late one day if we delay it now! Thank you for opening up about this subject and let information come to the younger ones :) xx

  7. I'm 27 and have had three smear tests done. As someone who doesn't partake in penetrative sex I find it very uncomfortable & I get really worked up about the tests however I know it's not worth my life to not go. I have one booked in for a few weeks time & I just remember the alternative. Nice to see someone approaching the subject.

  8. Love this post, so thoughtful and informative!

  9. Anonymous26.1.16

    I completely broke down in tears at my first one. It was about a month after my mother walked out on our family and I had no idea what to expect. To me it was something that your mum would make you feel ok about and stop you worrying, but with her not being there any more I got myself so worked up I just burst into tears as soon as the nurse said hello! I had a really rotten experience with an STI test a few years before and was convinced that the forceps/speculum would hurt me as much as it had before, but I had absolutely nothing to worry about. It was a bit uncomfortable, but nothing to shout about, and within 3 days I had my results. The next one I had I was in, done, and out within 5 minutes, and my results within a couple of weeks.
    Better a bit of discomfort than dying from something preventable.

  10. Great post and very reassuring, ive been putting off my first one, due to embarrassment, i know its bad but i cant seem to force myself to go.

  11. Such a great post! I fainted when I went for my first one because I had worked myself up so much. Even after having a baby and being in labour for 36 hours I still put off getting a smear test until my little one was two! In the end I had to go as everyone was forcing me and you know what, it really wasn't that bad at all! The nurse was so lovely which really helped and she was very quick but gentle. I don't mind having to go back again now!

  12. I admit I absolutely HATE going for it, but afterwards I am SO relived and really do think, why did I get so worked up. I found the 2nd time around, talking through it with the nurse helped a lot to calm my nerves, as well as talking to others. Talking , whether it's about this or anything else is so the key. Such a shame it is a kind of taboo subject, as it needs to be wide open, so o speak ahem...As we should all know what is going to happen in ne, and why we really do need them.
    Being spread eagled on a table has it's benefits if you ask me ;)

  13. Fantastic post! and you are so right everybody needs to go and have one as soon as they turn 25. I know this sounds super weird but I am actually sorta looking forward to it, just so I know if there is anything to wrong :)

  14. I really enjoyed this post. It can be such a daunting thought (who wants to get their bits out for a stranger when they're past 22?!) but after receiving an "abnormal result" I realized how damaging it could have been if I'd never attended the appointment. Luckily, it all turned out fine. Do your smears ladies!

  15. I think it's great you've written this post. It has everything you need to know about smears in one place which I would've loved to find before I had my first one!
    Mine was terrible. It was painful, I bled and she couldn't find my damn cervix! But despite it being slightly horrific I'll still be making sure I go to every one because it's still nicer than the possible alternative.

  16. Thanks for sharing this - cervical cancer is one of the only cancers we can detect before it starts, which makes it so important to go and get tested. I had an abnormal result a few years ago, which resulted in having pre-cancerous cells removed, and although the procedure was a bit uncomfortable, it was nowhere near as bad as I imagined, and I'm so grateful that it was caught when it was. A few seconds of slight discomfort and embarrassment is not worth risking your health over.

  17. While I agree with the sentiment of your post, there was 1 little thing I wanted to add - some cervical issues CAN be caused by sexual relations. Things like HPV, which is linked to cervical cancer & can be transmitted via sexual activity. We both agree though, avoiding the doctor won't avoid potential problems. Also, say something is wrong - when did it start? You would have no idea as you've not had a check up! Each time I have a clear check up, I know that if anything were to happen, I know when it WASN'T happening. As said above, it's not fun, but it's better than risking your life or fertility over :)


© London Beauty Queen | All rights reserved.
Blog Design Handcrafted by pipdig